June 2, 2009 9:26 AM   Subscribe

The real world location behind “Up’s” Paradise Falls. But could that house really fly?
posted by Artw (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Can I just say that I'm ever so slightly more impressed with Pixar (and they impress me a great deal already) if the basic math holds and they rendered an approximation of the correct number of balloons needed to actually lift that house.
posted by Muddler at 9:44 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can't decide if this makes me hate the world, or love it.
posted by aramaic at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2009

Carl refusing to be bought out by developers as his house was surrounded by new construction was partially inspired by Edith Macefield's house in Ballard. In fact, Disney used Edith's house in a PR stunt for the movie's release.
posted by amarynth at 10:04 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Cool. I was thinking of that house while I was watching it. It's a bit of a MeFi favourite.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2009

I kept having flashbacks to Fallout 3 every time I heard them say "Paradise Falls."
posted by bugmuncher at 10:17 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Let me tell you a little tale about Pixar ...

What? Oh, you've already heard it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on June 2, 2009 [7 favorites]

You really shouldn't let her see Up, or at least take some Gatorade, as given the effect of the Wall*E trailer she's likely to drain every ounce of fluid from her body for this one.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think I actually wept more at Up than she did. The first 10 minutes, and, especially, a very brief shot of an older woman struggling to climb a hill, broke my heart. It really did.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

/dabs eyes.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2009

You'll notice that he doesn't actually attach the balloons to the "top of the house" as mentioned in the article. The strings head down the chimney to the fireplace. Granted, trying to lift anything that large from a single point is asking for trouble. And obviously there are many other problems with the physics here. For example, the force necessary to tear the house out of the ground seems like it would be quite a bit stronger than the force necessary to just lift the house and should have caused the house to shoot upward as soon as it was free (not to mention the structural integrity). But most of the problems seem to simply be a matter of degree and not the result of a complete disregard of the laws of physics. Once they had the house almost on the ground, and they had a couple people trying to move it, they didn't ignore the fact that, even though it was in perfect equilibrium with respect to buoyancy, the thing's mass didn't disappear. It took a lot of effort to get the thing moving, stop it moving, or turn, but not much to keep it in motion. Of course the amount of acceleration that the old man and little kid were able to put on it seems significantly exaggerated, but the general concepts were there. I can almost imagine most of the events as plausible in some alternate universe where houses (but apparently not their connections to the ground, plumbing, electricity, etc.) are made out of extremely lightweight, super-strong materials (plus a few other changes to the peculiars of engineering and materials science).

And honestly, that's all I really wanted. I don't really want my fiction to be accurate. I just want it to be internally consistent, to establish* most of how the universe works early on, and then to be complex in an interesting way.

*One easy way to do this is to be accurate to reality, but it can also be done by adhering to a strong genre convention or demonstrating the important differences from reality early on in the story. I hate when (for example) the surprise ending is that the spaceship had a magic supershield button that nobody mentioned and operates on some technobabble that nobody even hinted at until after it was used. Of course, this is moot in those rare instances where the author can spin this confusion about the way the world works into the story itself.
posted by ErWenn at 10:47 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

People actually are debating the physics of an animated film? Really? The balloons are full of symbolic meaning, beautifully woven into the plot, and folks are discussing whether you could actually lift a house with them?

posted by Chuffy at 11:03 AM on June 2, 2009

Chuffy, since the animators obviously went to a lot of trouble to create some verisimilitude to the physics of lifting the house, I think this discussion is an appreciation of their hard work.

Your comment seems disrespectful of their craft and of what they accomplished, you seem to be saying, "It's just a movie, they shouldn't have bothered."
posted by straight at 11:09 AM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Up was amazing. It was the most deeply emotional Pixar film I've seen yet, and that's saying something. Their best films include one moment that tempts tears, but Up has at least two -- and one is in the first ten minutes. A remarkable feat for characters you've only just met.

It's also getting almost universal (and well-deserved) acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes has only three negative reviews, and they're all from critical contrarians that panned stuff like WALL-E and The Wrestler while praising Night at the Museum 2 and Meet Dave. (ugh)

I'd also like to say that Michael Giacchino's score was sublime. It seems like the entire soundtrack was based upon a single tune, a melody equally capable of cheer, exhilaration, and pathos... and sometimes all three in a single piece. It's nice seeing his work getting some play outside of Lost -- I think he did the Star Trek score, too.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:10 AM on June 2, 2009 [8 favorites]

Paging asavage...

But I seriously want to see this film. Looks like one of the rare films the whole family can truly enjoy, rather than the usual cliche which is just code for, "It's cheaper than a babysitter and will keep the tots quiet."
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:17 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Rhaomi on the score. Really, really well done.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:17 AM on June 2, 2009

...they're all from critical contrarians...

Hah! I see Armond White in there.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on June 2, 2009


One of the things that particularly struck me was the treatment of Carl hitting the construction worker. What would have been, in every other animated film I've ever seen, a throwaway slapstick joke - old guy hits young guy with his cane - was treated with astonishing realism. It was like they threw a bucket of cold water in the audience's face. I imagine that's going to generate a whole lot of conversation between parents and kids about violence.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on June 2, 2009 [12 favorites]

damn, now I want to go see UP.
posted by selenized at 11:26 AM on June 2, 2009


One of the things that particularly struck me was the treatment of Carl hitting the construction worker. What would have been, in every other animated film I've ever seen, a throwaway slapstick joke - old guy hits young guy with his cane - was treated with astonishing realism. It was like they threw a bucket of cold water in the audience's face. I imagine that's going to generate a whole lot of conversation between parents and kids about violence.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on June 2 [+] [!]

Agreed. I'm not sure about generating conversation, but it definitely was a perfectly executed moment. We're perfectly in carl's headspace to why he'd be so sentimental with the mailbox, and they just did the entire interaction and fallout perfectly. I have to say I can't tell you how difficult it is do a moment like this (in animation OR traditional "real life").
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:35 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a writer, and every time I have attempted such a scene, the results have been accused of lacking subtlety.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:36 AM on June 2, 2009

the results have been accused of lacking subtlety

Leave him/her out of this, they agree with you!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:39 AM on June 2, 2009

I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Buckminster Fuller's idea for Cloud Nine floating cities.

These could conceivably work on Earth, but I've been fantasizing about a similar approach suggested for colonizing the upper atmosphere of Venus.
posted by Araucaria at 11:47 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

My parents knew a guy who said his father had (been the white guy who had) found Angel Falls, and that it was named after his father. I thought it was interesting, but never bothered finding the location or any more of that story. Thanks for making that anecdote all the more interesting!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:01 PM on June 2, 2009

Their best films include one moment that tempts tears, but Up has at least two -- and one is in the first ten minutes.

IN the first 10 minutes? It pretty much lasts the ENTIRE first 10 minutes, once Ellie shows up anyway.

Yes, great for whole family. Except my daughters were staring at me wondering why I was crying so much. And then it gets funny, and exciting, and sweet again, with redemption and growth and a subtle, deep message. (Was that a spoiler? sorry)
posted by msalt at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2009

I was pretty much sobbing after the first ten minutes and never really recovered, crying at every little thing throughout the whole movie. Fantastic movie and I don't know I could bring myself to inflict it on myself again.
posted by cimbrog at 1:46 PM on June 2, 2009

It's a relief to see there are so many other crybabies out there-- I was burbling like a brook for most of the movie too. My son would pat me on the knee every now and then to let me know I wasn't totally embarassing him, which was kind.
The scene where Carl strikes the worker was really effective, in a way that I don't think I've ever seen in an animated film. Maybe it's the extremely stylized design combined with the subtle acting and the emotional depth of the previous 15 minutes, but that smear of blood on the young guys face just comes as a wrenching shock. That moment made Carl "real" for me in a way that I honestly didn't think even Pixar could pull off. (And the "Bad dog!" scene with poor Dug.... made me want to hug my own dog long & hard.)

I came across this NYT article about Disney's merchandising division getting all grumpy about Pixar's last few movies. Amazing- Cars has done 5 BILLION dollars in toy sales so far, and Cars 2 is on the way, yet investors are rankled that movies like UP and Ratatouille* aren't filling the shelves at Target with tie-in crap. Sigh.

*another swooningly lovely Michael Giacchino score right there
posted by maryh at 2:24 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

People actually are debating the physics of an animated film? Really?

They can render the 3D shit out of them for all I care: they're still beans.
posted by rokusan at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, Cars is considered by far too be their most successful movie.

Of course, it's all Toy Story from now on in, which should keep the merch guys happy, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more Cars at the end of that. Probably as soon as the innovative interesting things that Pixar does tanks they'll be chained to the DVD spin-off benches pumping out crap forever.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2009

They can render the 3D shit out of them for all I care: they're still beans.

hmm. Are you sure? look closer.
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be surprised to see more Cars at the end of that.

In fact, in the linked article...

After “Up,” the overtly commercial “Toy Story 3” arrives in 2010 and “Cars 2” in 2011, and there is much talk that a sequel to “Monsters Inc.” is in the works

That and 3Ding up their back catalogue, which basically means rendering a view for a second camera.
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on June 2, 2009

Speaking of Cars and cartoon physics, I can't help but think of this thread. *shudder*
posted by maryh at 3:07 PM on June 2, 2009


This sure was a great movie. And what a great message! A human life is worth less than preventing a rare animal from being put in a zoo. And if you find an old recluse in the wilderness, you can kill him and take possession of his belongings. Thanks, Pixar!
posted by Potsy at 3:09 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was more of the mindset that the balloon elements, coupled with a bit of fantasy, were more of a symbolic and theatric aspect of the movie...and to attempt to break it down into engineering terms is a bit of a geeky bastardization of the story. I'm more disrespecting the people who spend their time identifying the potential flaws in physics - not seeing the forest for the trees...but whatever.
posted by Chuffy at 3:36 PM on June 2, 2009

Chuffy, have you met the internet?
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on June 2, 2009

Chuffy, I agree with you about the symbolic aspects. I'm just saying I don't think the physics discussion is necessarily missing that. We can talk about the great camera work in Citizen Kane, what tricks Wells used and where he cheated, without taking away from the fact that the camera work first and foremost is intended to serve the story.

In most animated features, the animators wouldn't have bothered to even try to get the physics right, so there would be no point in discussing how well they did it.
posted by straight at 4:07 PM on June 2, 2009

Another person who cried through it here. The opening was powerful enough, but I pretty much lost it when...


Carl looked at the adventure book, and later when he pinned the grape soda badge on Russell's sash.


Oh man, what a wonderfully touching film. As for the post, how about the inspiration for Kevin?
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:59 PM on June 2, 2009

Some time ago, I heard a Pixar animator say that every Pixar movie has a major tech change/experiment at its heart. Toy Story; concept viability. Monsters Inc.; fur. Finding Nemo; Fluid systems and lighting. The Incredibles; clothing. Et cetera, et cetera. Anyone here have an insight as to what the big push was in Up?
posted by lekvar at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2009

A human life is worth less than preventing a rare animal from being put in a zoo.

Seeing as how a human life is worth less than than the cost of a movie rental, yeah, you're probably right.
posted by aramaic at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2009

Skin translucency seems a little more apparent, but I'm told that they have been doing that since Incredibles.
posted by Artw at 5:12 PM on June 2, 2009

They also worked on some improvements in creating realistic fabric, as well as feathers. Not sure what the major new thing was, if any.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2009

I loved this movie, but have a feeling adults will like it more than kids--judging by my own emotional reaction and excitement for the film compared to that of the 12 year old's I took ("I thought it was going to be much better").

This interview with director Pete Docter was a good listen. I especially like how they did research for the film under the guise of musicians playing at old age homes.
posted by hazel at 9:40 PM on June 2, 2009

As a huge fan of the movie, one technical element bugged me -- when Carl looked at his hands, they seemed bizarrely fakey, esp. compared to say the detail on the mean alpha dog. Much more Wallace and Gromit than Pixar. The fingers were way too wide and sausagey, the wrinkles were wrong, etc..
posted by msalt at 10:11 PM on June 2, 2009

I was looking at the 3 negative reviews on RT and of course one was from Stephanie Zacharek. I was about to leave a mean post about her, but then I vaguely remembered that I already had. I'm not going to get into it again.

Actually, yes I am. Screw her. She has no business as a movie critic.

She's like a vegetarian butcher, a misogynistic gynecologist, or an anorexic chef. She somehow found work in a field that must make her miserable. Contrarian critics are like professional trolls.

From her review:

"But save for a few inspired canine gags and a handful of very pretty visual details, "Up" left me cold. Its charms appear to have been applied with surgical precision; by the end, I felt expertly sutured, but not much else. "

"In the world of "Up," being too grown-up is never a good thing: The vision of Carl and Ellie's marriage, which consists largely of their beaming at one another, holding hands and having picnics, even well into old age, looks more like a denture adhesive commercial than a real romantic partnership."

I mean, what else could you possibly want from a cartoon? Really, how could it have been better? Sorry if the morals were to straightforward, or the characters weren't complex enough.

Of course, maybe she is just way smarter than the other 90% of the population. If that's the case, then I'd like to personally thank her for constantly reminding me.

(I know I don't have to read her reviews, but they have a way of popping out on sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes.)
posted by Telf at 10:13 PM on June 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Maybe my comment was too long and I got distracted too much in it, obscuring the motivating point of my post. One of the things I was driving at was that the way they didn't ignore the physics was a good thing.

Some people don't seem to realize how difficult it is to get an audience to stay immersed in a story that, like Up, is only moderately fantastical. To do it without leaning upon genre conventions or appealing to anything-is-possible with magic/science is even harder. I was admiring the skill with which they pulled it off. Very rarely did I find myself questioning the plausibility during the movie itself (essentially never once the house, and the movie, got going). It's not a matter of getting the audience to suspend all disbelief. If that happens, then your audience thinks any sequence of events is equally likely, and that means nothing is surprising, probably because they've become acutely aware that they're watching a movie (reading a book, whatever). There's a trick to balancing expectations, and I think Pixar nails it just about every time.

Of course, examining the minutiae of how the physics works isn't just about suspension of disbelief. The inertia of the floating house adds theatric impact to many scenes, whether they're trying to get it moving or trying to stop it from moving. I loved the image of the two heroes running away with house in tow, jumping down ten-foot drops and not breaking their legs. This is a scene that's only possible (without making the audience scratch their heads) because the creators chose to exaggerate the physical properties of the things involved instead of just ignoring physics entirely.

To say that thinking about physics ignores symbolism is to miss a lot of symbolism. It could be argued that inertia is one of the central themes here. (Mild Spoilers Follow) The opening montage of Carl and Ellie contains many incidences of the inertia of everyday life getting in the way of their dreams. Once Carl gets going towards his destination, it's just as hard for him to stop as it was for him to get started. (End Spoilers)

Chuffy, I saw the forest when I watched the movie and thought it was beautiful. Is it really so strange for me to now want to look at it in detail, to try and figure out why it was so effective? Besides, I can guarantee that that credits listing included a lot of geeky engineers on it.
posted by ErWenn at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2009

Up is definitely the best film adaptation of Moby Dick that I've ever seen.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:46 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

They' have really got to stop doing that wordless vignette thing. The're getting as good as Speilberg at jerking tears.

(although "Partly Cloudy helps soften the blow)
posted by djrock3k at 7:08 AM on June 3, 2009

Partly Cloudy was great fun.
posted by Artw at 7:17 AM on June 3, 2009

As for the Big New Thing, I'm kinda thinking it was clouds, the volumetric control thereof. I mean, normally, the clouds are extras in the scene, but this movie had some hard working clouds.
posted by djrock3k at 7:23 AM on June 3, 2009

Am I the only one who was disappointed by Partly Cloudy? It seemed like they had a fun idea but weren't really sure what to do with it or how to end it. I really wanted to like it, but it didn't actually make me laugh after the first couple of minutes.
posted by straight at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2009

Partly Cloudy cracked me up more and more as it went on. I think the look on the baby electric eel's face (smiling up at the stork and blinking) was a priceless detail.

My first Pixar film in a theater, amazingly, and really glad I did it.
posted by stevil at 10:27 AM on June 3, 2009

Up is definitely the best film adaptation of Moby Dick that I've ever seen.

I kind of like this webcomic one.
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on June 3, 2009

Just got back from watching Up and it was all I could do to keep myself from bawling instead of just sobbing for the entire Ellie sequence. There were moments when I recognized the laws of physics being broken in this movie but they were few and far in between, not to mention mostly inconsequential to the overall plot so they were easy to forgive.

I'll admit that when I first heard about the movie's premise I was a little disappointed and skeptical that the movie would have the emotional depth that Wall-E did but now that I've watched it I can't think of another movie I've watched that has moved me so strongly.

Kudos, Pixar. Perhaps I should have recorded myself crying in the movie theater and posted it on youtube except that I'm not a cute girl who's Astro Zombie's girlfriend so it would have been all for naught.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:17 AM on June 8, 2009

It looks like Astro Zombie has some competition in the awesome Pixar magnanimity department...
Colby Curtin, a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was staying alive for one thing – a movie.

From the minute Colby saw the previews to the Disney-Pixar movie
Up, she was desperate to see it. Colby had been diagnosed with vascular cancer about three years ago, said her mother, Lisa Curtin, and at the beginning of this month it became apparent that she would die soon and was too ill to be moved to a theater to see the film.

After a family friend made frantic calls to Pixar to help grant Colby her dying wish, Pixar came to the rescue.

The company flew an employee with a DVD of
Up, which is only in theaters, to the Curtins’ Huntington Beach home on June 10 for a private viewing of the movie.

The animated movie begins with scenes showing the evolution of a relationship between a husband and wife. After losing his wife in old age, the now grumpy man deals with his loss by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, flying into the sky, and going on an adventure with a little boy.

Colby died about seven hours after seeing the film.

With her daughter’s vigil planned for Friday, Lisa Curtin reflected about how grateful she is that Pixar – and
"Up" – were a part of her only child’s last day.

“When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” said Curtin, 46. “I just know that word ‘Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”
posted by Rhaomi at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2009

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